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How do I Become a Gaffer?

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  • Written By: Jill Gonzalez
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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To become a gaffer in the filmmaking industry, people need to be skilled in several different areas. One of the most important requirements for these jobs is to have a creative mind that allows you to visualize how a scene or setting should look. Gaffers are generally responsible for lighting, positioning of heavy equipment, and electrical functions. These individuals are often the ones that other staff members turn to when technical issues arise, so it is important for gaffers to be able to think quickly when the situation calls for it.

For anyone who wants to become a gaffer, the ability to work well with a variety of other people is a definite asset. This is the type of job that usually does not allow people to work alone or in an isolated setting. Since lighting is sometimes placed at great heights, gaffers should be comfortable with climbing. Sometimes they will have to climb to heights that might be a bit unsettling for some people, so having an adventurous spirit is a bonus.

There are some basic educational requirements for people who want to become a gaffer. For the most part, classes can be taken at a community or technical college. Degree or certificate programs can usually be completed in as little as one or two years of continuous study. It is important to note, however, that many studios and film companies do not require gaffers to have any type of degree or certification.

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In order to have the best chance of obtaining an interview, someone who wants to become a gaffer should try to gain some basic experience working with electrical systems and lighting. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to land a position as an apprentice. These positions normally do not pay very well, but they can provide you with experience that will be invaluable in your career.

Along with having a good understanding of electricity and lighting, if you want to become a gaffer you should also have a good grasp of color. Specifically, you should be able to decide how color schemes are going to look under a variety of different lights. Being able to make these kinds of decisions will help you to obtain and keep jobs throughout your career. It may also be helpful if you have the ability to design sets, supervise other people, and enjoy working in a constantly changing environment.

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SkyWhisperer
Post 2

@everetra - Lighting is everything in movies in my opinion. I always pay attention to the lighting in a scene in a movie to try to get an idea of how they achieved certain lighting schemes.

I am often amazed at the subtle and varied patterns they use, especially in old “film noir” movies which constantly play light and shadow against each other for dramatic effect.

The gaffer works with the director of photography to make all of this happen. I think it would be a great job, personally. It’s probably not the most glamorous position to have as part of the camera crew, but when you look at the finished product, it takes your breath away.

everetra
Post 1

So now I know what a gaffer is. I always watch the credits roll at the end of every movie and notice that they list the “gaffers” in their roll of credits. I had never really known what it was –just that the name was kind of weird.

From the description here, I think that a gaffer could evolve into a director or an assistant director role. I say that because the gaffer has to visualize a scene and put all the pieces in place for a maximum impact.

I don’t know if it’s an easy climb to the director’s chair but I think the skills are comparable.

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